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Lorenzo Rocci, author of the Greek dictionary

Detail of a page from the personal diary of Jesuit Fr. Lorenzo Rocci, author of the well-know Italian Dictionary of Ancient Greek - document preserved in the Historical Archives of the Jesuit Euro-Mediterranean Province in Rome

How many generations of Italian classical high school students have been confronted with the Rocci Dictionary of the Greek Language? A blessing and a curse for students, but also an indispensable tool of study and work for professors and Greek scholars, the Rocci has remained faithful over the decades, albeit with updates, to its first edition. Yet many students of yesterday and today are unaware that the author of that work was a Jesuit. Our Archives preserve his diary and some letters.

Lorenzo Rocci was born in Fara Sabina on 11 September 1864, studied at the Anagni boarding school of the Society of Jesus before entering the Order; as a Jesuit he was involved in teaching for decades. The dictionary was structured and organised precisely during his years of teaching, also for the benefit of his pupils, probably at the Mondragone College where the father resided for a long time. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the files that constituted the initial lexical patrimony that the Jesuit drew on for the composition of the dictionary, which were probably destroyed after his death in 1950 or with the closure of the Mondragone College four years later. In our Historical Archives, however, Rocci’s personal diary is preserved, written from 1880, the year he entered the novitiate, until 1929. The document testifies to the Jesuit’s feverish activity, first as a student, then as a translator and scholar of the Iliad and the Odyssey, of which he edited editions in Italian, and at the same time as a teacher at the Massimo and then at Mondragone. He also published a text of exercises in Greek.

Lorenzo Rocci taught Greek and Latin for about fifty years, if we consider the assistance he provided during his teaching career to students at the Compagnia’s colleges, often going to the Società editrice Dante Alighieri publishing house to deliver drafts of texts or to collect the fees due for publications.

A life dedicated to studying and teaching Greek and Latin, an aptitude that distinguished him from his first years in the Company, when he wrote about the teaching given by the Jesuits: “too paternal schools in which, more than anything else, I made my own”.

The choice to enter the Company was rooted in a family tradition: the Greek scholar’s father had also studied at the Jesuits, in the college in Piacenza, a period of which he kept good memories and about which he often spoke to every Jesuit his son had the opportunity to introduce to him, as Fr Lorenzo himself recounts in his diary.

In addition to the documents concerning his life in the Company, and the diary, a number of letters from ancestors and family members remain from Fr Lorenzo Rocci, probably collected in order to reconstruct his own family history, a project he did not have time to complete: in fact, Fr Lorenzo died on 14 August 1950 in Rome at the age of 86.

Fr. Rocci’s papers and documents testifying to his life in the Company are preserved in the fonds of the Roman Province.

Maria Macchi